Fine-tuned Prints

By Rossi Fernandes Published Date
01 - Jun - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2007
Fine-tuned Prints
MFDs-Multi-functional Devices- have progressed a lot since the days of being just copy and print machines...

Let's look at some of the things they can do now. We start off with connectivity. Fax has been around for a while now and is still found on most MFDs, to eliminate the need for a PC and an Internet connection if documents have to be sent from one place to another. E-mail is the newcomer, and is best for those with an Internet connection; you can now directly send scanned documents to anyone via the Internet directly through the MFD.

The laser MFD doesn't even have to be connected to a PC any longer; you can keep it in one corner of your room and it'll connect wirelessly to a machine-and other machines can wirelessly connect to it-in addition to USB connectivity.

Memory card readers are another addition. You can insert memory cards from your digital camera or phone to transfer data onto the MFD for printing or other purposes.

Let's not miss out on the scanning and printing features. Laser MFDs, for example, are much cheaper to run than their inkjet counterparts, and the price itself for most MFDs is now low enough to be practical for home users. The performance of laser printers, too, far exceeds that of inkjet printers, which make them perfect for office use.

Optimum Scanning Settings
You notice while scanning is that as scanning dpi increases, so does the time. In most cases, you don't really need 300 dpi. 72 dpi to 100 dpi should suffice for most Web-based applications or regular desktop use. Only when you're required to scan for other print media will you require the higher resolutions such as 300 dpi or more.

Don't go overboard on the dpi settings if you don't need them

Quality drops the moment you save the image using a lossy compression format such as JPEG. If quality is what you need, lossless formats such as TGA or TIFF ought to be used. If you scanned at a high resolution, make sure it's stored with the same or a similar dpi.

For images to be processed using an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, try and keep dpi as high as possible in order to get more accurate conversion.

Optimum Printing Settings
Text documents can waste toner if high-quality prints are taken, especially in moderate-sized offices, where large numbers are printed. In such cases, you can make a few changes to your printer settings to optimise the use of toner cartridge.

You need to be on the machine to which the MFD is connected. In the Control Panel, click on Printers and Faxes. Right-click on the MFD's icon and click Properties. Click the Printing Preferences button. Depending on the printer, click on the tab for quality settings. Some of the settings that can help save a lot on toner costs are the printing dpi and the colours used. If text forms the major part of your printouts, you can switch to a complete black and white printing scheme to save on the colour cartridges. The brightness and contrast settings do help a lot as well. Some printers have an "economical" printing mode, which usually saves toner.

Interpolated Images
Some scanners might sport unimaginable scanning resolutions. These claims aren't always true-interpolation is probably what's being used. The resolution isn't the real optical resolution; it's software-enhanced. It's similar to digital zoom in a digital camera. In interpolation, images' resolutions are increased with the same amount of data. This results in poor-quality images. Avoid using interpolated scanning resolutions as far as possible.

The major cost these days isn't the printing device itself, but the running costs. Cartridges are still quite costly, and this is where laser MFDs are the better option overall. A toner cartridge lasts a lot longer, and if you think you're going to print a lot of text, you can always stick to black toner cartridges for best economy.

Cleaning Your Laser MFD
Note: Opening and cleaning your laser printer toner can void your warranty and can be dangerous-proceed with caution!

The component in your laser MFD that mainly requires cleaning is the laser printing device. You must take great care while cleaning the printer, as the laser printer toner powder is really fine and contains hazardous materials. The particles in air don't settle very quickly either. Use a mask to make sure you don't breathe in any.

Keep your MFD nice and clean

Start by turning off the power and unplugging the printer. Next, open up the laser printer and remove any paper sheets from the trays. Wear a mask and gloves if needed, and remove the toner carefully. Use a brush (or a vacuum cleaner, carefully) to clean out any toner powder lying around. Use a cloth to clean out any toner stuck to the printer's insides. It's also best to dispose of the cloth once you're done cleaning.

Make sure not to damage any components or cables. Using isopropyl alcohol on a cloth is a good way to clean stubborn stains. You can use this to clean the rollers as well. When you're done, put the toner cartridge back into the printer and connect the power cable. You're good to go!

Printing Directly Off A Camera
Standards such as PictBridge now enable us to print photos directly off the camera using MFDs or photo-quality printers. You can simply connect the camera to the MFD using an USB cable, and in some cases wirelessly, and choose the photos you want to print.

The other standard that helps you do this is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) which can be found on many cameras today. It lets you tag the photos you want to print. That way you don't have to dump photos onto a computer and then send print orders for a select few.

Access Control
Over time, you'll discover a lot of paper and toner is wasted over unnecessary prints. To avoid such waste, you can allot access to only a few members of your office. To do this, in the Control Panel, click Printers and Faxes. Right-click on your MFD's icon and click Properties. Click on the Security tab, and you'll find options similar to those in Windows file sharing. You can choose what tasks you would like to allow users to perform. Click on Apply and then on OK.

Avoid Paper Jams
One of the biggest issues with any type of printing is the paper jams. Papers can get stuck in the printer due to several reasons. Haphazard loading of paper can cause curling up of paper-one of the main causes of paper jams. The other reason is humidity. Stagnant paper can become humid and jam the printer. So when the printer is not in use for long periods, remove the paper from the tray and store it in a dry place. When getting a new batch of paper, remove it from the packaging and leave it in the same room as the printer a day or two in advance.

While removing jammed paper from laser printers or MFDs, make sure you don't forcefully pull the paper-you could cause damage to the rollers or the fuser. The proper way would be to roll the rollers to ease the paper out.

Print Previews
Many a time, when we are about to send the print command, we have no clue about how many pages will be printed. In applications that do not display how many pages are to be printed, the best way to find out is to use Print Preview (File > Print Preview).

Sharing Your MFD
Like printers, MFDs can be shared over a network. To do this, you first need to enable File and Print Sharing for your network adapter. In the Control Panel, click on Printers and Faxes. Right-click on the MFD / printer and click Properties.

Let everyone on the network have access to your printer

Click on the Sharing tab and give a name for the printer. Clicking on the list in the directory will make the printer public in the Active Directory.

Cancel Unwanted Prints
We sometimes give prints by mistake, or we later realise that the number of pages to be printed is way too many. The proper way to cancel the printing is to double-click on the printer icon in the System Tray when a print command has been sent. Select the prints you want to cancel, right-click on them, and click Cancel.

Calibrating Your MFD
Monitors create colours by combining RGB (Red, Green, and Blue), whereas printers work by CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black-Key). When an image we see on our screens is printed, it doesn't quite turn out exactly as expected. Calibration of the both the monitor and printer is required for the best matching results. Perfectionists would use hardware devices to calibrate the monitor and the printer, but pretty good results can be had just by careful observations. Start by calibrating the monitor using software such as DisplayMate, or Web sites that offer similar tests that help achieve the optimum settings for the monitor. You are required to follow steps such as reducing the brightness and contrast and then gradually increasing them until certain features of the image on screen are displayed.

When you're done with the monitor, load up a high-quality test print image available on printer calibration sites. These images are uncompressed and contain all sorts of colours and gradients-which will help you achieve the best settings for the printer. Take a test printout. Having known that the monitor is tuned properly, compare and observe the printout with the display to find any abnormalities. Then, under Printers and Faxes in the Control Panel, right-click on your MFD's icon and click Properties. Navigate to your colour settings. Make alterations to the colours so as to get it closer to the colours you see on the screen. Take printouts to check the differences every time you tinker with the settings. Make sure you remember them for future reference! 

Rossi FernandesRossi Fernandes